I’m a big fan of Jeff Talanian’s Astonishing Swordsman and Sorcerers of Hyperborea (and Ian Baggley’s art throughout is inspiring and awesome). A bunch of the classes Jeff has presented in there are very flavorful and seem to be somewhat balanced with ACKS classes, so I’ve started the process of creating ACKS versions of them for my own game.
The berserker class is my first attempt. Not a class for everyone but I know some players that love to play characters like this.
i know this is all just houserules, but this seems heavily similar to the barbarian. If you were using this in a campaign, would you allow both or pick one? What would make somebody choose a berserker over a barbarian or vice versa?
Hey Jard, thanks for the question!
I would be using both in the campaign. I think these two classes resonate with different types of players - just like there’s an elven enchanter and a human mage, or an assassin and a thief. There’s overlap, no doubt, but I believe they speak to a different theme.
Here’s the difference the way I see it, and why I feel they have a distinct place in my own campaign.
Barbarians cover a wide range of character types hailing from all sorts of environments. In ACKS, they have a customizable proficiency list to reflect their ability to adapt to their peculiar environment and show their mastery within it. Horse archers from the Plains of Elessar or the Grim Ride? Barbarians. Stealthy trackers using poisoned darts in the deep Azult jungle or swift runners of the Ivory Isles? Barbarians. The ice-bearded warriors of the Nortvold standing against the Frost Giants of the Shiverspines? Barbarians. Desert nomads roaming the Withered Plains or the Great Wasting? Barbarians.
Berserkers are destroyers almost entirely focused on tapping into some preternatural rage that changes them into something frightful. They are harbingers of chaos in a way that barbarians are not. They are uncivilized and tend to hail from barbaric cultures, yes, but to me they embrace destruction. They aren’t builders, they are not ‘one’ with their environment, and they don’t create a culture, and though they may exist within a barbaric culture but they do not maintain it. A sect elite froth-mouthed fanatics of the Barbarian King in Hetlund? Berserkers. Cultists of the Destroyer or the Reaver? Berserkers. Demon-possessed bodyguard of the High Mage who becomes something wholly ‘other’ when battle is joined? Berserker. That blood-soaked giant of a man in the gladiatorial arenas in Semimia hailing from the Glass Wastes who tears the heads off of lions and drinks their blood after he bests them in single combat? Berserker. Northern reavers that pillage their way south each spring, destroying and murdering as they go? Likely berserkers but possibly with some barbarians mixed in.
Yes, you could use proficiencies to make a ‘berserker light’ barbarian, just as you could play an assassin like a thief or build a mage to be like an enchanter. Or you could embrace the rage and play a full-blown froth-mouthed howling servant of destruction. I think 3rd Edition D&D and a number of games following it have squished the two themes (barbarian and berserker) together, and while that’s no doubt a valid approach I think I’d prefer them to remain separate and embrace both of them!
Did you happen to have a Berserker PC in your campaign?
I made a different Berzerker class (https://mutantsmagic.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/berzerker-class/) based off the Dwarven Fury, but I feel like the “Fighting Fury” ability doesn’t capture the rage appropriately.
Your AS&SH equivalent seems a bit too powerful compared to the ACKS baseline; I’m wondering how it worked out in play.
Alas, no. I can only seem to drum up folks for a 5e game from time to time where I am, and converted my homebrew to 5e to take advantage of the ruleset. I still have all of my ACKS notes though for my homebrew, and am considering an alternate ACKS page for a campaign down the line - especially when the upcoming expansion hits and I think I’ll be able to truly represent alternate cultures/continents/schools of magic by using stuff from the Heroic Fantasy Companion - if they’re at all compatible. If someone does I’d love to hear the results.
I used the PC building rules for it - my ‘balance’ explanations, such as they are, are at the end of the PDF. The other fighting classes have a lot more flexibility than the berserker, and can be ranged focus as well. Fighter-types can also play more prominently in the King level of ACKS as rulers. With berserkers, I was experimenting with a class that can’t really do that, but balances that by gathering other berserkers into an incredibly valuable and dangerous unit to be used in the Domains of War scenarios, thereby having an alternate way to play through the upper level Conqueror and King levels of ACKS - a class not focused on acquiring land and wealth but on pillaging and raiding for others’ wealth - which they carouse away so they can do it all over again when their band runs out of luxury and threatens to disband or worse.
Berserkers certainly hit harder than a fighter in melee - once per day per four levels. Then they’re exhausted and/or potentially dangerous. Compared to the other classes I think they shine once or twice a day and will typically die/become unplayably disfigured relatively quickly.
With berserkers, I was experimenting with a class that can’t really do that, but balances that by gathering other berserkers into an incredibly valuable and dangerous unit to be used in the Domains of War scenarios, thereby having an alternate way to play through the upper level Conqueror and King levels of ACKS - a class not focused on acquiring land and wealth but on pillaging and raiding for others’ wealth - which they carouse away so they can do it all over again when their band runs out of luxury and threatens to disband or worse.
You have convinced me that I need to read this class. This is all most of my players ever wanted out of domain-level play
Hah, I hope you get something out of it.
I had the idea and went as far as I could go with it at the time, but there are clearly others on these forums, you included, that could probably hammer out what I’ve written into something simpler, more workable, or just plain better.